Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

28 June 2010

Sitting at the Feet of the Wise

I've been reading through 1 and 2 Kings recently.  One chapter that always stands out for me is 1Kings 12.

King Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam is set to take his place on the throne.  But there's someone else waiting in the wings - Jereboam son of Nebat.  Jereboam posed a real threat to King Solomon's reign.  Solomon tried to have him killed but Jereboam fled to Egypt.

So Rehoboam was about to take the crown when the Israelites, along with Jereboam who had heard that Solomon was dead and had returned to Israel, approached Rehoboam and said,

"Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."

Rehoboam sent them away for three days while he considered his options.  Firstly he consulted the elders who had served his father during his lifetime.  They suggested,

"If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."

Rehoboam didn't like the sound of that.  He was a young man hungry for power.  He was looking forward  to a lifetime of being served, not a life time of serving.  So he sought out the opinion of the young men with whom he had grown up and who were now serving him.  They suggested,

"Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' "

Ah, that's better.  That's just what a young, new king wants to hear. 

When the crowds assembled again he gave them his answer - the advice given to him by his mates.  And, as you would imagine, Israel was not well pleased.  So much so that they picked up and left, went back to their homes and put themselves under the rule of Jereboam.  Rehoboam was left with one tribe to rule over, Judah, where he resided.  And just like that, the kingdom of Israel was split in two, as God had told Jereboam it would happen. 

This tragic story highlights the importance of seeking out wise counsel when we are faced with big and important decisions - and then listening to it!  And what constitutes wise counsel?  Rehoboam went to the right place first.

King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime.

There are two hallmarks of a wise one.  One is age.  It is a brave friend who will give wise, truthful advice.  Mostly we speak the words our friends want to hear.  We want to preserve our friendships.  And I guess Rehoboam's friends, who happened to be in his service, probably wanted to preserve their livelihoods...and their addition to his friendship.  Of course you would say what your friend wanted to hear if you were in their shoes.  Those older than us are more likely to tell it as it is.  We approach our elders for advice, not to be our best buddies.  And so they will give us their advice. 

The other hallmark is experience.  Someone older than us but with no experience of our circumstances may not be the best person from whom to receive advice.  Rehoboam went straight to the ones with the most experience in the land - to the elders who had served his father - elders who knew the kingdom and the ins and outs of ruling it inside out.  They knew what would work in this situation and they made their call.

So why does this chapter always stand out for me?  Well, it's not a hard and fast rule because there are some young people with extremely wise heads on their shoulders, but it is a good principle.  I appreciate being reminded that it is important to seek out the counsel of the wise, to be wise in choosing whose feet to sit at and then to have the humility to listen to their counsel.


Sarah said...

Thanks for this post, Meredith. I'm sure I'll find it helpful as I'm about to start reading 1 and 2 King for the first time, beginning to end, instead of picking bits here and there.

I agree with the principles, but I still wish some of the elderly would truly be wise. Sadly sometimes, as you said, life experience doesn't equal wisdom. I find myself studying people (usually those older than me) and observing the fruit of their lives. I've been listening to a sermon series on Proverbs from my old church, and learning about the difference between the wise, the fools and the gullible/simple. I'm encouraged that we are told to choose and seek wisdom and we find it when we listen to the word of God :)

Meredith said...

Hi Sarah,

You're right. It isn't just experience. Or age. It's both, under God. We need a lot of wisdom just to find the wise!

And hooray that you are reading 1 and 2 Kings. I LOVE this section of the Bible. If you click on the label KINGS AND CHRONICLES at the end of this post you will go to a series of posts I wrote early in the life of this blog which may help you navigate your way through these books, which at first can seem complicated, especially until you sort out the problem of the two kingdoms. The bit I have written about here is right at the split. But I remember an early read through of 1 and 2 Kings and obviously missed the point of the kingdom splitting and then after that I was completely lost!!

God bless you richly as you read these books of the Bible.